Truck Lane Construction in Full Swing
By Tim Whyte
Anyone who commutes each day on Interstate 5 can see the progress firsthand, and once it’s begun it has continued steadily.
These truck lanes are coming. This is no longer just a “proposal” or a great idea. It’s a great idea being brought to reality, as we watch and anticipate its completion.
Under construction between the Newhall Pass and Lyons Avenue/Pico Canyon Road, the new truck lanes will span 3.7 miles and make a tremendous difference in the lives of commuters and long haul truckers alike.
“As the name suggests, a truck lane is a lane that is designated for trucks, so in essence it separates those big 18 wheelers from the other cars on the freeway,” says Kelly Markham, Public Information Officer for Caltrans District 7, in a video profile of the project posted on the Caltrans I-5 information web page, http://i-5info.com.
In the video, Markham interviews Senior Transportation Engineer Fred Young as well as Engineer Abdul El Jamal.
Young said the new truck lanes will make a major difference in driveability on the I-5.
“During recent traffic studies the traffic volume through the southbound side of the I-5, connecting both the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valley has increased, aside from the fact that the population in Santa Clarita has increased as well,” Young said.
“It’s an uphill grade coming from the north and therefore this creates congestion and backup onto the southbound freeway. The purpose of this project then is to be able to extend the truck lanes just past Weldon Canyon, with the south end extended so the truck lanes can have additional lanes for the trucks, so they can move over and have more space for autos in the other lanes on the southbound 5.’’
In the early stages of construction, contractors set about the process of building a retaining wall in the median to separate the northbound and southbound lanes, accounting for the fact that the northbound and southbound sides are at different elevations.
“There is currently about a 30-foot buffer between the two sides of the freeway, northbound and southbound,” Young said. “Now we are going to eliminate that and pave the whole section of the freeway out. In various sections of the freeway, the northbound and southbound sides are not on the same grade and there a retaining wall is going to be built and then it’s going to be backfilled and paved out.”
In addition, he said, two bridges are being widened, at Gavin Canyon and Calgrove Boulevard. “And, that’s going to close the gap in the median as well for future carpool lanes,” Young said.
El Jamal said the truck lane construction, which is on track to be completed as scheduled in 2014, will be done in several phases.
“The construction is going to go through three major phases,” El Jamal said. “The first one is the median shoulder area which is going on right now and comprises 70 percent of the work. After that we are going to move to Phase 2, or Stage 2 construction, which is going to be on the south side and that is where we have additional widening. And then after that we have minor work on the north side.”
He added that the construction impact on traffic has been minimized.
“So far it has been great, the impact has been minimal, because most of the work has been done during the night and we only have minor activities during the day, drainage and some sweeping work,” El Jamal said.
He added that the speed limit in the construction zone is planned to be reduced to 55 mph during construction. “That will be enforced by the California Highway Patrol, and that will improve the safety for the motorists.’’